Jeremiah, the Man And His Mission
Tim Temple

Introduction

We are beginning a study of the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. I've chosen this series of studies for several reasons, but I think primarily because it is set in a time of crisis and more particularly, a time of the moral decline of the nation of God, the nation of Israel. It reveals what is behind the death of a nation.

Only twenty-two years ago the United States of America celebrated it's 200th birthday, but it may be that in these days, so relatively soon after we had that great celebration of our nation, we also may be witnesses to the beginning of the end of that very nation. I hope that's not true. I pray that that's not true, but as we study this book, I think you'll see that the forces that are at work in our nation today are the very forces that were at work in the day of Jeremiah in the closing days of the nation of Israel in which he lived and ministered.

We can learn a great deal about what's going on in our nation as we study this great book of prophecy of Jeremiah. We can learn here how we can behave in a time of national crisis and really some principles about how we can behave in the time of personal crisis as well. Even though the motivation of coming to this study on my part has been the national situation in which we find ourselves, in the study and reading I've done, I've realized that many of these principles, perhaps all of these principles, are applicable to us as individuals, regardless of whether we apply them to our national situation or not.

What should a believer do when things are falling apart all around him, when no one else or very few others, it seems, are doing what they ought to do? What should a believer do when things are falling apart in his home or his community, and certainly the nation and the world in which we live? The answers are here in these messages of Jeremiah. From this prophecy, we'll also learn what the only hope is in a time of despair and darkness. Perhaps even more important, we'll see how God plants the seeds of new life in the midst of death and destruction all around us. It's a great book, and I believe we're going to receive great benefit as we go through it together in the weeks ahead.

I want to say at the outset that we're not going to be going through the book verse by verse as we have other books because the book of Jeremiah is basically a collection of twelve messages that Jeremiah gave interspersed with some historical events to tie those messages together and give the context and the setting of the messages, to provide some background. The book doesn't unfold chronologically. It jumps from one subject to another and so it's necessary, if you want to pursue the historical chronology of the book, to piece it together.

There is a moral progression in the book. The sermons address various issues as the nation of Israel continued in its decline, and so that's the order that we'll follow as we study the book of Jeremiah.

Probably many of you are not familiar with the book of Jeremiah. It's not the most famous book. Jeremiah is not the most famous of the prophets. I think Isaiah would probably claim the title of the most famous of the prophets. Jeremiah is not the most difficult of the prophets to understand. I think Ezekiel would probably be in that category. But Jeremiah is certainly the most heroic of the prophets, certainly one of the most heroic if not the most heroic. He began his ministry as a young man in the days of Josiah, king of Judah. For forty-two years, he preached in Judah, trying to awaken the nation to what was going on around them and what was about to happen to them to get them to turn around and to save the nation from the judgment of God that God was warning them about through Jeremiah. In all of those forty-two years, never once did he see any sign of encouragement. His preaching didn't seem to alter for one moment the headlong destruction that this nation was heading into—its own destruction. As far as we can tell from the book, he never saw any sign that what he was saying had any impact at all on the people to whom he preached. And yet, he was faithful to its task. He, in the course of much sorrow and struggle and heartache and difficulty and danger, performed what God had sent him to do.

This is another of those places that demonstrates for you and me, as we go through difficulties (probably not anything like the difficulties that Jeremiah went through) in trying to do what God has given us to do, as we go through times of a lack of response, perhaps, or a lack of encouragement, we need to remember, and we can learn from the life of Jeremiah, that God is not calling for success. God is calling for faithfulness.

This success syndrome is all around us today. It seems to me especially now more than ever before in our history. Success seems to be everything. But with God, faithfulness is success. If we are faithful to God, in His eyes we're successful. That faithfulness to God may bring some human success, some success that humans would recognize. But as with Jeremiah, it may not bring that at all. What God is looking for and what God awards is that good and faithful servant to whom He says, “Well done,” regardless of what the circumstances may have been. And Jeremiah's faithful message endured far beyond his own day. The people who looked down on Jeremiah are long gone and we have no record of their names, but Jeremiah's name is still a household word among Christians, and Jeremiah's message is recorded for us even now these thousands of years later. So he is a good illustration to us and an encouraging reminder of the fact that God looks at things differently than humans do.

In this opening chapter, we have a full length portrait of this prophet and also of the times in which he lived. The first three verses of chapter 1 set the prophecy in its historical background. In those verses, we find Jeremiah's circumstances. His lineage is given in verse 1:

Jeremiah's Lineage

Jeremiah 1:

1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:

I want you to notice carefully that Jeremiah is a priest. Not only that, but he is the son of a priest. Does that sound familiar? Have you ever heard of that before? Do you know anybody else who has ever lived under that kind of a yoke? He was what today we lovingly call a PK—a pastor's kid, a preacher's kid. Worse than that, he grew up in a town where only priests lived. He lived in the priestly town of Anathoth, one of the cities of Benjamin not far from Jerusalem. His whole background was a background of spiritual things.

His father's name, verse 1 tells us, was Hilkiah. It tells us that he was one of the priests. That was a very common name among the priests. There's no way to know for sure just which Hilkiah Jeremiah's father was, but it's interesting that the next verse tells us that he began his ministry in the days of Josiah. The high priest during the reign of Josiah was a priest by the name of Hilkiah. We're not going to take the time to turn there, but the second book of Kings tells us that this high priest, Hilkiah, was rummaging around in the temple one day looking over some old records and money boxes that were stored in one of the storerooms, and dusting things off and straightening things up. Down under a bunch of odds and ends of discarded things, he found, of all things, a copy of the law of Moses on a scroll at the bottom of this storeroom. He picked it up and dusted it off and began to read it and realized what he had in his hands.

He took it to Josiah, the king. Josiah was one of the eight godly kings that the nation of Judah had along the way, and he realized, as Helkiah realized, what a tremendous find this was. As he read through it, he also realized how far the nation had fallen and how much the law of God had actually been lost and forgotten. He was just stunned by what he read, and so he took it to King Josiah. When Josiah read it, he too was astonished by it and was frightened that the wrath of God would fall on the nation because they had not kept the law of God. They had not only not kept it in practice, but they had not even kept it physically in view. It was stored away. It was lost for years and years and years. Josiah made a covenant before God to keep His commandments and to encourage the people to keep God's commandments.

He got busy and took away all of the idols to the false gods that had been built in Jerusalem during the last fifty years, and he began a great national reform which ultimately turned out to be the last of several reforms before the nation of Israel actually fell into exile.

I'm saying all that to say that this high priest, Helkiah, probably was Jeremiah's father. There is no way to prove that, but most Bible scholars believe that that godly priest who was instrumental in restoring the law of God to its rightful place was Jeremiah's father. So he came from a very impressive background.

Jeremiah's Lifestyle

In verse 2, we find a hint as to his lifestyle:

Jeremiah 1:

2 To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

That verse might not say too much about his lifestyle, but the names in that verse, if we put them in their chronological place in the Bible, tell us that these were troublesome times in the nation of Israel. If you're familiar with the history of Israel, you know that this was a very difficult, treacherous time. The golden age of Israel had come during the reigns of David and Solomon. Anybody who knows anything about the Old Testament knows that. The peak years of Israel, the glory years for Israel, were under the reign of David and Solomon. Because of David's sin and because of Solomon's sin, God allowed the kingdom to be divided into two kingdoms after Solomon's death—the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom kept the name of Israel, and the southern kingdom kept the capital city of Jerusalem.

The southern kingdom actually consisted primarily of the one tribe of Judah which was David's tribe, Solomon's tribe. That one tribe became the southern kingdom. The other eleven tribes became the northern kingdom. There's a lot of other detail we could go into, but just that basic amount I hope you'll keep in mind because it will help you sort things out as we move through this chapter.

By the time Jeremiah came on the scene, the northern kingdom, which kept the name of Israel, had already sinned so badly and deteriorated so badly that God had let them be taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Assyria was the next nation to the north above Israel. They came in because of the wickedness and debauchery and rebellion against the God of Israel, the northern kingdom. He allowed the Assyrians to take them captive and effectively brought that nation to its end.

That had happened by the time Jeremiah came on the scene. Amazingly enough, even though Judah, the southern part of the kingdom, had watched all that take place—several places in the Scripture tell us that Judah observed all that was happening in Israel, their sister, as God refers to them—and yet, Judah followed the same course, the same pattern that Israel followed. By the time Jeremiah came on the scene, Judah was rushing headlong to its own destruction, following almost exactly the same pattern that Israel had followed.

That may seem shocking to us unless you are familiar with recent history and you know that the United States of America is following the same pattern that other nations before us have followed, leading to God's judgment. There are a number of different theories of history, but one that is absolutely valid and yet very little recognized, is the theory of the cup of iniquity. God spoke to Abraham many years before he actually gave Abraham's descendants the promised land. He said to Abraham, “Four hundred years from now your descendants are going to have this piece of property that you are standing on. But the people who are living here now are going to continue for many years because the cup of iniquity is not yet full. When the cup of iniquity becomes full, I'm going to strip them of this land to give it to your descendants.”

When you read through the Old Testament books of Joshua and Judges, you see that that is exactly what God did. He stripped those then powerful nations of all that was theirs and gave it to His own chosen people. All the real estate is still there, but we look at history and we see that there are many, many, many nations of the past which were once great civilizations, once great world powers, which now are no longer anything but names in a history book. If you trace the history of those nations, you see that even though the history books don't refer to it in that way, they followed the path of the cup of iniquity.

When the cup of iniquity became full, and only God knows exactly when that is, He cuts those nations off and He brings some other nation into power for His own purposes. Sometimes they are godly nations, but those are the facts of history, not the theory. That is the way history has unfolded all down through the ages. So when we hear that Judah watched her cousins—literally, physically her cousins—go down the tubes politically, we shouldn't be surprised at that because we in the United States are doing exactly that. We are following patterns that are easily traceable in the history of other nations that God has judged and brought to nothing—a very sobering thing to keep in mind.

That was the lifestyle into which Jeremiah was born. Those names that we find in verse 2 remind us of the situation in the history of Israel or more specifically Judah, that Jeremiah came into. The one thing in Judah's history that gave a little bit of hope was that in this southern kingdom of Judah, there were about thirteen or fourteen kings, but eight of them were very godly men. These were not eight kings in a row. They were interspersed in most cases with several godless kings. So the nation of Judah would take two steps forward and one step back, sometimes one step forward and two steps back. But at least Judah had some hope because down through the years there were eight godly kings. One of those was Josiah. I think that those godly kings are the only thing that kept Judah from going to its destruction before it did.

As we come to the book of Jeremiah, Josiah, that last good, godly king is on the throne. In the grace of God upon the nation of Judah, Jeremiah began his godly ministry during the reign of this godly king who was trying desperately to set the kingdom right, using his authority and his power to tear down those idol temples and restore the worship of Jehovah and causing this newly rediscovered law of God to be read to the people on a regular basis. That's the setting. That's the lifestyle into which Jeremiah came.

Jeremiah's Life Span

Then verse 3 tells us something about Jeremiah's life span:

Jeremiah 1:

3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.

Verse 3 is talking about which king came when, to tell us how long Jeremiah's ministry lasted. Unfortunately, the reforms that were put in place by Josiah turned out to be temporary because as soon as Josiah died, everything deteriorated again and all of the rebellion against God started all over again.

Jeremiah lived to see Jehoahaz, who was Josiah's son, rule for three months and then he was captured by Egypt and carried away in exile. Ultimately, Jeremiah lived to see the total domination of the world by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar; and ultimately he saw the invasion of his beloved nation of Judah by the Babylonian armies, the siege of Jerusalem, the slow starvation and capitulation to the Babylonian armies, the overthrow of his nation by Babylon and carrying away into captivity of the people of Judah.

Jeremiah was a little older than Daniel. Daniel lived in the closing days of Jeremiah's life. Remember that Daniel was one of the young princes of the kingdom of Judah who was taken into captivity in the very first deportation when Babylon first conquered Judah. So that may help you put it in mind, too, that Jeremiah and Daniel are contemporaries even though Daniel lived in the closing years of Jeremiah's life.

Jeremiah wasn't taken into captivity. He was left behind in that land that was so ravaged by war. The next book in the Old Testament after Jeremiah is the book of Lamentations. The book of Lamentations was written by Jeremiah as he walked around in that once glorious nation and literally wept and lamented over what he saw.

Have you ever stopped to visualize or think about what Washington D.C. might look like some day? Have you ever stopped to think about what Los Angeles and Chicago and Abilene and other great cities of the United States might look like some day? Jeremiah lived to see that, and he wrote this weeping, mournful book of Lamentations. It's well worth your time to read it. It's just a short book; you can read it in ten or fifteen minutes. It is sobering to realize that once great nations can come to nothing when God is put out of the picture. His own chosen people did that, and He didn't withhold His judgment from His own chosen people, the nation that He Himself had founded. Even though the Babylonians, the captors, treated Jeremiah kindly, even respectfully—God saw to it that he was treated with care—later he was taken as a captive by some rebel Israelites to Egypt. There he died unknown, unsung, unhonored.

The Scripture doesn't mention this, but tradition tells us that he was actually stoned to death by fellow Jews who kept wanting to try to get an alliance going with Egypt and overthrow Babylon and get their nation back. Jeremiah was true to the Word of God. Jeremiah said, “Listen, God has said that this is over with. God has said that it's too late. Don't waste your time. Don't waste your effort. Turn your hearts to the Lord. Don't depend on Egypt.” And he actually lost his life in being faithful to the message that God had given him.

It is only by looking back on His life that we see the effects of his life. At the time he died, there was no indication that he had accomplished anything. We know with hindsight that he accomplished a great part of God's program for the human race, recognized only now hundreds and hundreds of years later. The heroism and the courage of this man is a remarkable and a challenging thing. I think this book will be a great source of encouragement to us, especially to those of us who may think that we're living in thankless circumstances.

The Call of Jeremiah by God

In the next few verses, verses 4-10, we have the call of Jeremiah by God. It's fascinating to notice that God had prepared and sent this young man into the ministry. It was all God's work. God did the calling; He did the preparing; He provided the power. That's what we're going to see in these next few verses. It was all of God. Jeremiah didn't come up with this great plan to be a prophet. The preparation of Jeremiah by God is in verse 4:

Jeremiah 1:

4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

When God began to send Jeremiah into the ministry, the first thing that He did was to sit down and share with him one of the four spiritual laws. Are you familiar with the four spiritual laws? Campus Crusade has popularized a way of giving the Gospel by giving four spiritual laws. The first of those laws is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That's what we find here in verse 5. God tells Jeremiah that. I love you and I have a wonderful plan for your life. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” He says. “Before you were born, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nation.” That's the preparation of God while Jeremiah was yet unborn. The significant thing is that it took place before Jeremiah ever drew his first breath. In other words, God said to Jeremiah, “I started getting you ready and getting the world ready for you long before you were even born. Your parents and your grandparents were a part of what I'm going to do through you.”

Someone has said, “When men face a crisis, they always start looking for a program, a method, with which to attack the crisis; but when God sets out to solve a problem, He always begins with a baby.” Have you ever thought about that? All the babies God sends into the world seem so innocent and so helpless, and let's face it, so useless, a lot of times. Those babies actually have enormous potential. This verse tells us that those babies are prepared by God for some particular purpose. Hidden in the heart of every baby is a specific thing that God intends to do with that child who will become that adult. That's what God said to Jeremiah. “I've been working before you were born to prepare you to be a prophet. I've been working through your mother and father and your grandparents and those who were before them.”

It's easy to read through this as something which applied only to Jeremiah, and there are some who try to say, “Oh, well, this was a special case. This doesn't really speak to the importance of life in the womb.” But, if you read it that way, you misread the whole passage. You know, we sometimes hear of people saying about a particular person, “When God made that person, He broke the mold. He threw away the mold.” We've heard that said about people like Abraham, Lincoln, and George Washington and other people like that, haven't we? The same thing has been said of hundreds of people. Sometimes we say it kind of thankfully that God did throw away the mold when He made that person. But do you know what? It's really true of every single one of us. There is more and more scientific evidence all the time to corroborate what the Word of God has been saying from the beginning, and that is that God has never made anyone else like you! He never will. You are unique in all the world. God never made anyone else who can fill the place that He made you to fill. All the DNA testing and all the fingerprint evidence, and all of those kinds of things now, thousands of years into history, are verifying that very thing. God throws away the mold every time He makes a person. This is the wonder of the way that God forms human life, that out of the billions of human lives all down through the years, no two are duplicates. Each one of us is unique and each one of us is prepared by God for the time in which we are to live and for the purposes that we will accomplish.

That's the Word which came to Jeremiah to strengthen him, to encourage him. “Look,” God said, “I have prepared you for this very hour,” and He would say the same thing to you and me. He has prepared you and me for this time, for this world, for this hour of history. Does that give you a little bit more of a sense of purpose? Does that challenge you to look to God a little more closely for strength and for courage to do whatever it is? You may not know what that is yet. God has not sat down with us like he did with Jeremiah to tell us exactly what He wants us to do. But He has brought us to this purpose, and does anyone dare even whisper the word abortion at this point?

The Provision of God

There's not only the preparation of God, but in verses 6-8, there is the provision of God. Notice Jeremiah, chapter 1, verses 6-8:

Jeremiah 1:

6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah's first response is pretty typical. It is to shrink back from the call of God. Does that sound familiar? Many of us have done that very same thing, haven't we? And we're in good company because that is exactly what Moses, Gideon, Isaiah, and other mighty men of God have done in shrinking back from the call of God on their lives. Jeremiah says, “I'm too young. I'm too inexperienced. I can't speak.” That is almost exactly the same things Moses said when God called him. Jeremiah was about thirty years old and Moses was about eighty years old. You and I are somewhere in between, most of us, and yet, it's typical of the human race to say, “I'm too young; I can't talk.” If you feel that way when God calls you to do some particular work, just remember that you are in the line of prophetic succession. You are just being like everybody else that God ever called to do anything.

I mentioned a minute ago in passing, but most Bible scholars believe that Jeremiah was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. Scripture doesn't really tell us exactly, but in the Old Testament, that was the age at which a young man was considered an adult. Probably that would have been about the age Jeremiah was when the book begins. In our world today, with our worship of youth and beauty, that's considered pretty much over the hill, beyond the time when a man is capable of anything. That's when God starts. I think I could get off into a whole sermon about that subject right now. The older I get, the more important that becomes. But we who are older, and you who are older than I am, need to keep in mind that with God, age is no barrier.

We think of thirty years old as being a little too old to really get started with anything new. If we're over forty or fifty, we don't feel that way. But God set at the beginning age thirty. Jesus was about thirty years old when He started his ministry. Even at that age, Jeremiah feels that he's too young to do what God wants him to do. But God's answer that He's given to everybody else who ever felt that way is, “Go ahead and go because I'll be with you.” You see, it doesn't matter how old we are when God calls us. Some people come to know Christ even later in life than thirty. Some people feel a call from God to do something particularly far into their lives; but with God, age doesn't matter because whatever age He calls someone, whether it's young or old—and I believe with all my heart that He still calls older people into new ministries—the key thing is, “I will be with you.” “Don't worry about your voice, Jeremiah.” He had said, “I can't talk; I am a youth.” “Don't worry about your voice, Jeremiah.” To you or to me, He might say, “Don't worry about your looks. Don't worry about your personality. Don't worry about your ability. Don't worry about your education. I will be with you. I'll be your voice. I'll speak through you. I'll give you the words to say. I'll give you the power to stand. I'll give you the courage to keep on being faithful. I'll be your wisdom. I'll be whatever you need. Whatever demands are made upon you in the course of serving Me, Jeremiah [You can put your name there.], I will be there to meet it.”

Do you remember what Jesus said to those original Christians of whom we are all the descendants? “Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey whatever I have said to you, and lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the world.” Exactly what He said to Jeremiah was, “I will be with you. You go and do what I show you to do. You be My representative. You do your part in making disciples for Me and I will be with you.” That's what He promises to each one of us.

The Power of God

The third division of this call of Jeremiah is the power of God. He elaborates a little bit on what He says there in verse 8. Look at verse 9:

Jeremiah 1:

9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Notice carefully, Jeremiah was not sent just to the nation of Judah. Verse 10 says that he was set over nations and kingdoms. Actually, the messages of this book were addressed not just to Judah, but to all the great nations of the world of his day, to Egypt, to Assyria, even to Babylon, who later triumphed over Judah, but those messages also are sent to all the great kingdoms of the world today.

I love to think about this thing that God is saying to Jeremiah. It's the same message that we find in the second Psalm. Are you familiar with Psalm 2? That Psalm is fun to read because it tells us that here are the nations of the world, glittering and powerful, with pomp and circumstance, and statesmen and leaders, and power brokers in all their big meetings and conclaves. Household names, marching up and down the stage of history, rattling their swords, acting so proud and so powerful all the time. But God picks out an obscure, young man from a tiny little town in a small, obscure nation and He says to him, “Look, I have set you over all the kingdoms and nations of the earth.” You see, that is the way God operates. He says to Jeremiah, “Your word, because it's My Word, will have more power than all of those nations.” That's where the power is. It's God's work; it's God's message; it's God's man. That's where the power is.

Psalm 2 says that the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs at the puny leaders with all their posturings and their pronouncements and their news conferences and their explanations and their promises and their programs. God laughs at that. He gets a kick out of watching all these leaders do their thing because He is the One Who is in control of history. Those leaders with their world travels and their summit conferences and all of that are only doing what He allows them to do, and it will only be as effective as He allows it to be.

Again, the amazing thing is that God has given you and me the same privilege as children of God that He gave to Jeremiah. James says that the prayers of a righteous man avail much. The prayers of a righteous man release God's power in the situation. When you and I pray about the affairs of our own lives or about the affairs of our nation and the international scene, we unleash the power of God over the course of nations just as words of Jeremiah altered the destiny of the nations in his day. When we preach, when we share the truth of God's Word either publicly or in a one-on-one situation, even though we're obscure and nobody has ever heard of us. The White House would not let us in the door, most of us. No one knows who we are, but we have the power of God to change the course of nations, and that can be documented all through the course of history.

A good example is the fall of the Communist government of Romania. We may see other examples of it, but this is one that can be documented. The details of the fall of Romania are given very readably in Chuck Colson's book, The Body . If you have access to a copy of that book, you ought to get it and read it. It's about the third chapter in that book that tells how a few faithful believers in Jesus Christ, a couple of pastors literally willing to face a firing squad, even though ultimately they didn't have to, brought down the fall of the Communist government, and it's directly traceable to the people of God in that country. That's the kind of power that God's people have if we're willing to make use of it, if we have the courage to do what God tells us to do.

He may or may not call any one of us, or even allow us to be a part of a group of people that He calls to be directly involved in those kinds of things, but who knows; He may. The obscure, nameless people in the history books of Romania literally brought down the godless Communist government of their country.

So, Jeremiah was set in the midst of this death and destruction, but God said, “I'm going to use you to plant healing and hope.” However, in order to accomplish that, God says in these verses that Jeremiah's part of the work would be to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow. Before God could bring about that ultimate glory that Israel—and it's still future for Israel even now; some of it has taken place—first of all He had to pluck up and to destroy and to bring down, and then He would be able to plant.

That is always the work that God does before He can bring hope and healing. That is true in nations as well as in individual lives. There are many things which have to be torn down if God is going to make what he wants to make out of nations or out of a life, things which men trust in and depend on for their satisfaction and security.

I could tell you the story of a man who not very long ago prayed that whatever it took, God would deliver him from the financial bondage that he was in and heal his marriage and restore his life. If I were at liberty to go into the details, which I am not, you would be astonished. You would be amazed, as he is, at how God began to reveal, sometimes in very painful ways, things that had to be plucked up and broken down and destroyed and overthrown in his life before God could answer what he originally prayed for.

To one degree or another, all of us have those things in our lives that if we are going to be used of God in any way, not necessarily in some great way, but if God is going to be able to use us, in all of our lives to one degree or another, there are things that He is going to have to pluck up and pull down and destroy so that He can plant healing and hope.

The work of God is to open our eyes to these things, to destroy them, to root them out. Then, as always, in His grace, to plant and to build. Listen, God never destroys just for the purpose of destroying. He never brings testing and difficulty and discipline into the lives of His children just to watch us squirm. That is not His purpose. He disciplines and He destroys and He plucks up in order that He might build up again. That was God's call to Jeremiah.

There is more in the chapter that we need to cover, but we're going to stop here because we don't have time to give the kind of attention we need to give to the other verses. Lord willing, we will pick those verses up next week and continue with those.

Conclusion

Let me just remind you that if God has you in a time of difficulty now, if He has you or some loved one of yours in a time of difficulty now, it may or may not be because of sin in their lives. His ultimate purpose is to be able to use them in a greater way, to teach them, if nothing else, as He taught Jeremiah, how to weep as God weeps over the wickedness and sin, and out of that weeping, out of that pathos, to be able to preach with a broken heart to people who desperately needed God's touch.

That is the message of the prophecy of Jeremiah. I hope that we will be blessed and encouraged as we go through it together and that we will learn much for our time in our own nation and in our own individual lives.


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